The goal: to develop the visual skills of patients with tailor-made exercises
The goal is to maximise the visual abilities of patients and develop their vision in coordination with the other senses through a series of tailor-made exercises designed by the optometrist. Repetition of these exercises enables the skills that patients gradually acquire to be automated, until they become part of their motor and cognitive capabilities, through the creation of new neurological connections. The eyes, somehow or other, “learn to see”.
Being aware of each patient’s problem is key to the effectiveness of the therapy
For vision therapy to be effective, the key is to identify and become aware of the specific problems of each patient. From there, specialist ophthalmologists and optometrists work together to complement or reinforce the medical or surgical treatment or offer an effective alternative to cases without a treatment option.
Vision therapy is aimed at both adults and children with accommodation (ability to focus) abnormalities, difficulties with binocular vision, oculomotor system problems (poor control of eye movements) and certain types of strabismus.
Low reading speed in children, difficulties in memorising or headaches – warning signs to visit the ophthalmologist
In addition to addressing deficiencies in the functionality of the visual system, this discipline also encompasses problems of perception, the result of misinterpreting stimuli received through the eyes. For this reason, children with learning difficulties are another group that can be treated with vision therapy: low reading or comprehension speed, difficulties in memorising texts and performing other school work, and recurrent headaches or frequent rubbing of the eyes are some of the symptoms that should serve as warning signs to parents, teachers and school psychologists.
If any of these signs appear, it is important to visit the ophthalmologist to rule out a possible disorder and, if deemed appropriate, refer the child to the vision therapy department for the purpose of enhancing the visual skills affected, thereby reducing the symptoms. In all cases, therefore, a visit should be made to the ophthalmologist prior to assessment by an optometrist and the designing of a therapy exercise plan, in which the most appropriate techniques and instruments are used for each patient.
Among them stands out the Sanet Vision Integrator (SVI), a system designed by the American optometrist, Robert Sanet, which features a 50-inch touchscreen for improving tracking, visual reaction and recognition time, speed, contrast sensitivity, auditory visual sequencing and memory, along with other skills.
The duration of vision therapy can take three to six months, depending on the circumstances and goals of the patient
Vision therapy treatment consists of a weekly 45-minute session accompanied by daily exercises at home for 15-20 minutes. The total duration of the programme will depend on the circumstances and goals of each patient, but, in general, functional difficulties typically require a minimum of three months and perceptual problems, six months.
What is essential in all cases is self-discipline and perseverance, since the complexity of the exercises gradually increases in order to achieve a progressive improvement of visual skills. In the case of children, the support and involvement of parents is also very important to ensure fulfilment of the therapy, which can be assisted with the use of entertaining games or applications available on tablets and smartphones.